Fiona Alderman’s Blog: The End of the Holidays
Thank goodness it’s all over. At least the French get on with things relatively quickly after Christmas.
However, a lot of decorations are still up and I remember everything was to be taken down by the 12th night and bad luck if not perhaps. There are some die-hards that keep their decorations up until even the end of January here. One is at my lovely Couvent where their yearly display of festive decorations are always very beautiful. A little doll in their window caught my attention recently. She is called Bécassine.
A comic strip character from the early 1900’s and much loved by French children. Created by screenwriter Jacqueline Riviere and cartoonist Emile Joseph Porphyte Poncho, it depicts a young girl from Brittany , coming from the country to work as a maid to a wealthy family in Paris. Her following adventures are exciting and depict life at the turn of the Century.
Slightly plump, wearing a white headdress that is typically Breton, and with a naivety about her that was taken for stupidity. Despite this image, she certainly wasn’t stupid; she was fully literate and able to drive. Her yellow car features in much of the series. In the initial drawings, she doesn’t seem to have a mouth, and some people sadly said that was why she couldn’t respond verbally in her Breton language. She also lowers her head, as she was a maid and so subservient to her employers.
This was not fully appreciated by the Breton people it seems, seen as depicting them as a backward race. A film was even made called Snipe, a nickname for the woodcock, and another unfavourable reference to Becassine.
She is very favourably portrayed by Chantal Goya, a popular French actress and singer, who staged shows and musicals about Bécassine ma Cousine. Children and adults have flocked to her shows for years to sing along with the songs and enjoy her adventures. On a motorcycle, an aeroplane, climbing the Alps and being introduced to the telephone. All the new things at the turn of the Century to be conquered and enjoyed.
A Star is Born
Maybe not a brilliant title, but Monsieur Hugo Marchand is an Etoile of the Paris Opera ballet company at a very young age. He is only 29.The first ever to have achieved this position at such an early age.
Starting at 9 years old in Nantes, his teacher at the Conservatoire in Nanterre recognizing a wonderful dancer, oversaw his swift progression through the ranks. Winning a gold medal at 13 and entering the Paris Opera ballet school he would achieve the corps de ballet and soloist roles early on joining the company.
He had major roles in the Nutcracker, choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev, Story of Manon by English choreographer Kenneth Macmillan, and was made premier danseur in 2015. His physique is strong, very muscular and he is also very tall. Some characterists not usually seen in the male dancer.
He has also danced in Contemporary works by Wayne McGregor, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian and Benjamin Millepied, once the Artistic Director of the Paris Opera ballet.
He said: ” dance is still a joy ” and you can see this when watching him dancing with passion and beautiful grace.
Apart from his work with the company, he also teaches Masterclasses to young dancers, sharing his extensive knowledge and experience with others. Also dismissing the ever present stigma of boys who want to dance.
He is at present working on a ballet which is a Tribute to the late Patrick Dupond, who was a legend in the world of dance: dancer, teacher, Director of the Paris National Opera, and Hugo Marchand will bring his own special skill and presence to the role.
The continuing saga of trying to get a bench for Barry to put in the cemetery is ongoing. Enquiring again recently, to be told it could take up to a year ? There is a budget and a system to be followed of course, and I will just need to be patient. Not easy, especially as I could buy one myself ? Not allowed apparently. The cemetery is owned by the Mairie not by the Church in France.
I come away confused to see a funny sign on a garden fence. Again, the difference in cultures perhaps.
The translation into English is not exact, and I don’t know where they got it. I know the people who live there and I might just ask them.
That’s all for now from a very cold Salignac.
Fifi’s stories from rural France. January 2023.
Fiona Alderman, January, 2023
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